Imagine my surprise and delight on Sunday morning to learn that the Houston Chronicle wrote a review of Anahuac to kick off its 2019 Sunday book review section, which was also carried by its sister paper, the San Antonio Express-News. Chris Gray — a former Austin Chronicle writer who relocated to Houston to write about music there — did an outstanding job writing his review, and I tip my hat to him for it.
I did have a chuckle when I read his observation that “Anahuac has been out a little while,” as it’s been nearly a full year since I did an event at Murder by the Book as part of my book tour through Texas. But then he followed that up with one of my favorite lines of any of the reviews I’ve received to date: “It’s worth seeking out for those who occasionally find the Texas criminal-justice system as entertaining as it is infuriating.”
Chris understood so much of what I was aiming to do with Anahuac. He noted that I write “with a good-ol’-boy gentility that cuts through the legalese,” which is exactly the balance I sought in telling this tale. (The absurdities of a courtroom in a small Texas town, with an Arkansas preacher on trial for murder, deserved no less.)
He also understood the book’s protagonist, Jim Ward. He pointed out, amusingly, that Jim “has a touch of unfrozen caveman lawyer about him, to invoke that old Saturday Night Live sketch featuring the late Phil Hartman.” Though it’s been a while since I’ve thought about that particular character, I saw where he was coming from!
What might actually be more precise comes at the end of the review, where he talks about Jim’s “inchoate enlightenment” as Roe v. Wade is about to bring on more changes to how men and women are viewed in the tumultuous 1970s, concluding the review with a pithy, “He’s kind of a slow learner, but time is on his side.” It’s this very slow evolution of Jim as a more worldly and thoughtful man (if not an outright feminist) that I’m documenting now in the follow-up to Anahuac, set in a mid-1970s Austin full of its own cosmic cowboy-driven changes. Seeing a reviewer appreciate Jim in the way that Chris did has given me an added and appreciated burst of energy, even as the Muse has me hard at work discovering all that Jim’s up to in the time following Anahuac.